If you're looking to update or restyle your home, there are more than a few pieces of conflicting advice. This is why interior designer Rory James Carter, of online interior design service White Space, says it's important to start with "how you want yourself and others to feel when hanging out in the space."
When you start with a feeling or a mood, you can design vignettes and choose pieces on how they fit with your idea of home, rather than purely choosing on what matches or what fits a particular idea of style. Moodboarding is essential, but so is knowing where to shop. And then there's balancing style and functionality, which is always a very delicate line to tread.
Here, Rory answers all our questions on where to begin when restyling, looking for ways to elevate or attempting to mix and match.Maybe you're looking to update to a more polished aesthetic, or perhaps you've moved out for the first time, either way, below find the basics to crafting an elevated interior that suits you.
We are all at home all the time so suddenly our space has become more important than ever. When it comes to updating our homes, where do we start?
Whether you're looking to update one room or your entire home, the best place to start is by thinking about how you'd like to use the space in a practical way, and how you want yourself and others to feel when hanging out in the space. From there, I always suggest to my clients that they spend some time pulling together images of inspirational rooms colours, textures and materials that they're drawn to. This can easily be done on Pinterest by creating boards, looking through your 'saved' folder on Insta or cutting up magazines and actually creating a vision board. You'll always be able to refer to these images and it gives you the confidence to move forward with decisions knowing you've already deciphered what you want from your room or home.
If you were refreshing an interior, and could only pick three pieces to replace, which would they be?
Your bed (or bed linen), sofa and artwork. Given that we spend so much of our time asleep, what we sleep on/in is really important. Your bed is generally the focal point of your bedroom so choosing one that's sturdy and timeless will help your bedroom feel grown up and elevated. If you don't need to upgrade your bed, refreshing your bed linen is the easiest way to transform your space, whether it's every season or even every week. Having a few sets of linen in the cupboard that you can mix and match keeps things fun and means you can change up your look super easily.
Generally the sofa is one of the largest and most expensive pieces that my clients purchase when furnishing their space, so it's something you want to nail the first time. A beautiful, well-made sofa can last a long time and means that you can possibly skimp on smaller things like side tables or cushions if budget is a concern.
While I love a minimalist interior and believe that a bit of white space is needed to give the eyes a rest in a room, artwork is the best way to showcase your personality and interests at home. From textured paint canvases to abstract line drawings and photographic prints, a piece of art can uplift a room instantly and provide a focal point to anchor the room. I always believe bigger is better, and prefer one large piece for a bold effect.
What are your favourite stores for sourcing furniture and accessories?
I tend to use different suppliers depending on the style and budget of the project I'm working on, but there's a lot of great staple brands that have a wide range like Globewest, West Elm, MCM House, Life Interiors and Papaya. I love Sarah Ellison's furniture collection as well as Jardan and Ferm Living. For accessories I tend to opt for beautiful coffee table books and magazines like Design Anthology and Cereal magazine mixed with vases from Marmoset Found or Country Road and ceramic vessels from Marloe Marloe. Every now and then you'll find a great vase from IKEA or H&M home that's great for styling on shelves.
How do you balance style and functionality?
Balancing both those elements is always a big part of every room I design. That's why having a think about how the space needs to function (amount of seating, size and scale of furniture etc.) is important before anything is actually selected. Knowing what will and won't work will narrow the search down and help to lead you to pieces that will be a perfect fit. Once the staple pieces have been selected, I believe that 'style' can be achieved through the addition of rugs, artworks, vases, candles, cushions etc. It's important that the pieces you want to last a lifetime are classic in shape and colour, while smaller, more affordable items can be changed as your personal style evolves.
Do you have any interior design rules to never break?
The great thing about being a designer is that there really aren't any hard and fast rules. Each project will have its own set of 'rules' due to certain things like budget, existing features like flooring, windows etc. and a client's personal style, so I just assess those things first and then focus on how to achieve the best design outcome for each space.
What are your favourite trends in interiors and home decor at the moment?
At the moment, it feels like chunky, curvy and wavy furniture is still trending which I definitely don't mind! I really love the number of new artists I'm discovering at the moment creating amazing monochrome, textured canvases that play into the ceramic trend that's been happening for a while now. The number of new ceramic vases popping up is exciting too as a self-confessed vessel hoarder. I think there's also been a resurgence of lamps which is great, because they add a sense of height and scale to a space and also make a room feel warm and ambient.
What are the simplest ways to elevate your space?
Decluttering and re-styling can be an easy (and free) way to make your room feel fresh again. Consider re-orientating your furniture or switching things around if your space is feeling stale. If you're looking to add in new pieces to elevate your space, fresh bed linen can instantly transform the look of your bedroom. Simple things like adding a floor rug under your sofa can ground the space and make it feel more comfortable, while hanging a mirror can bounce light around and make a room look bigger. For me, filling a vase or two with fresh greenery can be enough to elevate my place.
What’s the secret to mixing and matching furniture pieces, so a room is cohesive?
Mixing and matching is a part of designing any room, because the last thing you want is for your living room to look like a furniture catalogue. Before you start, it's important to understand what type of spaces you're drawn to so that you can decide whether you'd like to mix just a few different materials/styles or whether you love an eclectic look where every piece is unique and different from the last. This is where your initial mood board will come in handy — for example, I decided when I moved into my own home that the furniture would mix of oak timber, concrete, black metal and linen. I've used these materials in almost equal parts so that the space looks purposeful but not forced.
What's your favourite decor hack?
I don't think there's just one simple fix when it comes to designing, but I do believe there's one thing that can instantly transform the feeling and look of a room, and that's indoor plants. I know that my own home would lose a bit of 'life' if I removed my plants. Not only are they helpful for purifying the air and giving you a sense of the great outdoors, some striking varieties like Bird of Paradise can act as decor themselves to fill a corner or add style to a shelf.